I've often been fascinated with Blue Sky Studios. Since they debuted onto the animation scene with "Ice Age" back in 2002, they've put out a wide variety of animated films and I got to respect them for that. They sure know how to make a very fun animated film that delivers. Though they have done some slip-ups and this was the decade where their mistakes caught up with them. With the success of "Ice Age", 20th Century Fox became convinced that they had a gold mine franchise on their hands and asked Blue Sky to continue making more films in the series. It did start decent initially with reviews being mixed yet the box office numbers were huge, but then it backfired badly a few years ago. In 2016, Blue Sky released "Ice Age: Collision Course", one of the worst animated sequels ever as well as one of the worst animated movies released the entire decade. The reviews of that film were savage and the box office numbers weren't any better. It was a wake-up call for both Fox and Blue Sky to put the franchise to extinction and move on to new original projects. Then earlier this year, things changed. When Disney acquired 20th Century Fox, they subsequently acquired Blue Sky as well and placed them next to Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar as their third flagship studio. Now with Blue Sky under the hands at Disney, it'll be interesting to see where they'll go from here and with "Spies in Disguise" being their first film released under their umbrella, I think it'll go well. I thought this was a very fun animated film and a breath of fresh air for Blue Sky. This is a film I've wanted to see from them for a long time and it sure delivered.
Super spy Lance Sterling (Will Smith) has been saving the world from evil baddies for a long time. Having stopped many villains in the past, he has become well respected at his agency in Washington DC and has become the top spy their as well. Yet one mission seems to go not according to plan when a secret device is stolen by a terrorist named Killian (Ben Mendelsohn) and Sterling ends up in a very sticky situation at the agency. Needing help, Sterling turns to a newly appointed gadget maker named Walter Becket (Tom Holland) who ends up turning him into a pigeon. On the run from the agency and looking for the secret terrorist, Sterling in pigeon form, as well as Becket, go on a mission to save the world while also figuring out how to get Sterling back to human.
While its story may have some familiar elements to it, I still found it very enjoyable and often hilarious. It really keeps you on edge and you really want to see where the story goes while also throwing a few twists and turns in there. At times, I did find myself surprised at where the film went and won't lie when I say I didn't see some certain elements coming. It also really knew how to play against the spy tropes we're so common with and were able to put them into great use here as well. It even used visual storytelling aspects which I do applaud and didn't result in cliches I typically expect in animated films. There are a lot of great jokes in this film and I was incredibly relieved when Blue Sky didn't spoil a lot of them in the trailers like some animation studios are known to do. I have got to give them credit for that. Another element of the film I also really loved was the message. Without spoiling it, I thought it really hit home for me and was exceptionally well handled. It's a great lesson for kids to learn. As far as the animation goes, this is honestly the best-looking film Blue Sky has ever put out. If you were to tell me at the beginning of the decade this film was animated by Blue Sky, I wouldn't have believed it and thought it would be made by another studio like DreamWorks or Sony Pictures Animation instead. Every detail is exceptionally well rendered and the colors were very eye-popping and gorgeous. I was amazed at how detailed the cities were, especially Washington DC. I've been there and I can say it doesn't look as beautiful as how it was presented in this film. I also thought the character designs were unique for how stylized they were. As far as the characters go, they work exceptionally well which has to come down to the voice actors. Lance and Walter wouldn't have worked as well as they did if Will Smith and Tom Holland didn't play them. Blue Sky decided to have them almost play themselves as these characters which helped lend way for some hilarious jokes and excellent chemistry. These two worked off each other exceptionally well. Even the other characters although not as major worked well, especially given how one of them was played by DJ Kahled. Normally, I'm annoyed when pop stars are cast in animated films since they don't have the acting skills and Blue Sky has been guilty of this before as both Beyonce and Pitbull were cast in "Epic" and felt distracting, but I wasn't bothered with Kahled. Even Reba McEntire I thought worked as the head of the agency. The one character I thought could've been better was Killian. Not gonna lie, this was an exceptionally lame villain and one as basic as you can get. Though considering how likable the protagonists are, I wasn't too bothered by it. Even Mark Ronson's pop song didn't bother me like I thought they would. I found them very catchy and thought they fit the tone of the film perfectly.
In all honesty, I enjoyed "Spies in Disguise" a lot. It had a fun engaging story, the animation was the best Blue Sky has made, and the characters work exceptionally well due to the voice actors. Looking back on it, this is the kind of spy film that "Cars 2" should've been. It knew how to use the tropes, had a better protagonist, and even better gadgets. It was the spy animated film I wanted to see and got. I will say that despite Blue Sky's rocky history with franchises, I would totally be on board to see a franchise come from this film. I also want to see more original films like this from them in the future and now with Disney, I think they're in good hands and have a bright future ahead of them. Here's to a new and exciting decade for them.